Good morning! I’m offering two stories for this round. Both of them are part of the same ‘verse as Integrity and Wendy’s Man. That ‘verse has a name now: Truceverse, because it diverges from canon at the first Spike & Buffy truce in Becoming Part 2. The timeline for the Truceverse is here. Most of the stories in it have been posted before in open_on_sunday or sb_fag_ends. My second story, a ficlet, will be posted later today.
Title: Once A Prince
Rated: PG-13 for canon-appropriate creepiness. No AO3 warnings.
Timeline: after Doublemeat Palace
Pairing: Spuffy, with mentions of Spike/Dru, Buffy/Riley and Buffy/Minor Character
Buffy wandered down the street, too tired to pick a destination. Another hour until the second half of her swing-shift at Doublemeat Palace. She longed to spend all of it under a shower, but once the smell of grease was out of her hair she couldn’t face going back. The hot water at home wouldn’t last that long, anyway.
She wondered if Spike would steal a water heater for her. A super-sized, high efficiency one that would let her soak for hours. Bribed with co-ed showers, Spike could probably achieve anything.
Buffy scolded herself for the thought. It was bad enough she was having a torrid… thing with a soul-less vampire. Now she was going to encourage him to commit more crimes?
She side-stepped the bench outside the Espresso Pump and almost collided with someone.
“Sorry,” Buffy mumbled without looking up.
“Hey! It’s you!”
Her gaze traveled up a long pair of jeans to a sweater and a college jacket. The face above it looked vaguely familiar. Tousled brown hair kinda long for a guy; athletic…
He said apologetically. “You, uh, saved my life a couple months ago.”
“I’ve saved a lot of lives.” Buffy shrugged, trying not to sound like she was bragging. “Sorry, I don’t remember you.”
“I was tied to a tree. You had this big sword and you cut the rope with one swing. It was the day everyone was singing?”
Buffy blurted, “Prince Charming!” Mentally she smacked herself. Of all the stupid things to say.
The guy laughed sheepishly. “I don’t usually wear the puffy renaissance shirts. Seemed like a good idea at the time.”
“I think everybody gets take-backsies for that day.”
They smiled, the awkwardness smoothing over. “I was just going to get some coffee. You want a cup? Unless you have to get to work…” He gestured at Buffy’s red polyester pants. At least the referee shirt was hidden under her coat.
On impulse, Buffy answered, “Sure.”
Once they were settled at a table, the guy — his name was Steve — asked, “So I guess the superhero gig doesn’t pay the rent?”
Buffy grimaced. “Nope, hence the day job.” She took a grateful sip of vanilla latte. “Do you go to UCS?”
“Part-time. I work on campus. And play Lacrosse.”
“Lacrosse, huh? I never really got that game.”
He leaned his elbows on the table. “It’s fast-moving like field hockey, but no penalties for high-sticking.” His hair fell over his forehead and he pushed it back.
“Seems like those pads would get in the way. Too hard to swing your arms.”
“Oh, we need ’em. I’ve got bruises on my bruises.” Steve seemed to consider showing his battle scars, but thought better of it. Buffy wondered what it would be like to sit on the bleachers like an ordinary student again, cheering for a contest where nobody was supposed to die.
Spike slunk along the alley, hugging the back walls of Sunnydale’s commercial district. It would be a few more minutes before sunset made it safe to walk outdoors. He was too restless to wait in his crypt.
The smell of fresh-brewed coffee was nothing to the scent of living humans nearby. Carelessly they strolled through the amber evening, their hearts a syncopated rhythm to their footsteps. Spike scowled. Two years since he’d been free to hunt. He craved blood worse than he craved a cigarette.
He could hustle pool and hope Willy had some fresh black market to sell. Maybe Dawn could be persuaded to feign injury long enough to distract security at the hospital?
He could frighten some poor sod into stepping in front of a bus, then drink once his heart stopped beating.
“Seems like those pads would get in the way.”
Spike started at the sound of Buffy’s voice. It was coming from inside The Espresso Pump. He crept around the building’s corner, keeping beneath the scant shade of the overhang.
“Oh, we need them.”
Buffy was sat at table with a whelp who looked like he’d be unreasonably tall when standing. Spike shifted to game face, then quickly back.
“When’s your next game?” Buffy asked the boy. Spike pictured her sitting in the stands, her skin bronzed by the sunshine. Surely she wouldn’t be impressed by mere sportsmanship, a girl who won nightly battles to the death?
“When’s your next game?” It felt so normal to enjoy coffee and conversation.
“The season doesn’t start ’til Spring. But we have a regular scrimmage, just to keep in practice. Tuesday nights, at Wilkins Field?”
“Maybe I could trade a shift at work and watch sometime.”
“That would be great.” Steve smiled, full of self-assurance. Buffy wondered what sort of awful flaws hid beneath the surface. Knowing her luck, he was a secret puppy-drowner, or picked his teeth in the movie theater.
There was something to be said for a guy whose evil side was right up front. With Spike, the surprises could be startlingly sweet.
That would be great. Spike mouthed the words, sneering. Did Buffy really fancy this poser?
An elderly man with dog passed him on the sidewalk. The dog caught Spike’s scent and yelped, darting as far away as its leash allowed.
Spike considered following to a quieter street, then snatching the dog for a meal. The jolt he’d get for killing a pet was less than the chip dealt if he struck a human. Still, canine blood was trash food, not worth the trouble. He’d rather drain this smiling young man, then present Buffy with his head on a pike.
Wasn’t the sort of gift she’d appreciate. Pleasing Dru had been easier. All he’d had to do was the worst he could think of. How did one impress a woman whose standards included saving the world?
“So, what’s the day job like?” Steve raised his eyebrows.
Buffy buried her head in her arms. “Oh, God,” she moaned. “I’ll give you a hint. I wear a hat with a cow on it.” She looked up to see if Steve was figuring it out.
“Doublemeat Palace!” he chortled. “My roommate worked there for a week. Said it turned him into a vegetarian.”
“You have no idea.”
She imagined skipping work for a night, watching a scrimmage, going out afterward. Steve was big and strong as normal guys went. Definitely good-looking. He would be fragile, though, like Riley had been. That itchy impatience from reining in her strength… she’d got so tired of holding back.
The matching marks she and Spike bore that morning had faded by lunchtime.
The sun slipped beneath the horizon. Street lights were coming on, and the warm glow from the cafe spilled out through the window arches. Spike resolved to walk away, but his feet wouldn’t leave this bit of pavement.
“You have no idea.”
Why was it so hard to make Buffy smile? This blighter did it without trying. Spike could match her blow for blow, but when it came to Buffy’s happiness he was at sea. Did it take a soul to understand what a hero wanted?
There were times, though, when she thought he didn’t see. He’d catch a gleam in Buffy’s eye, know she was restless for violence. She hunted to save. Killed to protect. Didn’t mean she didn’t need it.
Buffy checked her watch. “I need to get to work,” she said. The sun had gone down. She could feel the familiar prickle of things waking up. The rest of her evening would be serving food to people and trying to keep them from becoming food themselves. She would endure her shift at work, then patrol with Spike by her side, as dependable as her own left arm and even more deadly. Afterward, she’d make sure Willow was home with Dawn.Never skip checking again. Never. Then she and Spike would go back to his crypt — or maybe they wouldn’t make it that far — and she would exorcise her demons by drowning them in his.
Steve stood when she did. He collected her empty cup and his own.
“I’m glad we ran into each other.” He grinned, glanced down at his feet, and then up again. “Are you, uh, seeing anybody?”
Buffy’s face turned from her companion, seeking Spike unerringly through the arch where he stood lurking. She looked directly into his eyes. If he’d needed a breath, he would have held it.
“Yeah,” she answered. “I am.”
Originally posted at https://seasonal-spuffy.dreamwidth.org/790184.html